Wild at Heart, by Jane Graves

>> Saturday, April 02, 2011

TITLE: Wild at Heart
AUTHOR: Jane Graves

PAGES: 326
PUBLISHER: Ballantine

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romantic suspense
SERIES: Follows I Got You, Babe.


When private investigator Valerie Parker tails a cheating wife late one night, it’s business as usual—until the woman is murdered and the man she’s with becomes the prime suspect. Val gets an even bigger shock when she discovers the suspect’s identity: He’s Alex DeMarco, an old flame she swore she’d never speak to again. But then Val’s own life is threatened, and before she can blink she’s on the run, side by side with the unbelievably gorgeous man who once shattered her dreams and broke her heart . . . all in the same day.


As a cop, Alex knows better than to ignore his instincts, but for some reason he offersthe woman on the prowl a ride home anyway. When she turns up dead and he comes face-to-face with Val Parker, his problems are only beginning. As they work together to clear his name and to protect Val’s life, Alex finds himself drawn once again to the wild, impetuous woman from his past—even as the shocking secret behind the murder threatens to tear them apart forever.
Valerie Parker always wanted to be a cop. She entered the police academy and thought she was doing well, until she was dismissed for not having the right temperament for it (something to do with her unwillingness to follow orders and her determination to always do things her way). To add insult to injury, it was made clear to her that the opinions of one of her instructors, Alex DeMarco, were instrumental in her dismissal. This was quite a surprise to Valerie, as the night before Alex had come by her house, and not only did he not mention what was going to happen the next morning, the asshole actually slept with her.

A few years later, Valerie has become a PI and is following a millionaire's cheating wife, trying to get evidence of her affairs. She follows the woman to a low-rent dive, where she makes a move on a man -none other than Alex DeMarco. Valerie follows them to the woman's house, and so is right there to see the woman being found murdered and Alex become the main suspect. But much as she dislikes the man, Valerie can't deny there's something fishy about the whole set-up, and before she knows it, she and Alex are both on the run from the police, fighting to clear Alex's name by finding the real culprit.

I was kind of 50-50 after reading the opening. On one hand, I really dislike having one of the protagonists wrongly accused of a crime. I don't know why I have such a strong reaction to it, but the whole idea of people having to prove their innocence while being hindered by a corrupt or incompetent police force makes me feel frustrated and pissed off -not a nice way to feel for an entire book. This was slightly less frustrating than it could have been, but it did stretch my credulity that Alex, a cop himself, and a very good one, would be so vulnerable when it was so obvious there was something suspicious about the whole thing.

On the other hand, however, I very much liked the set-up for Valerie and Alex's relationship. Alex behaved very badly all those years earlier, and he knows it. He feels awful about what he did and very much regrets it, and he can fully understand why Valerie felt so betrayed, even as he still stands by his opinion that she wasn't right for the police. To Graves' credit, Alex's behaviour isn't justified to the reader and he doesn't justify it to himself. And possibly because of this, I was able to accept him as the hero. I did want Valerie to make him suffer, and it was good that she didn't just fold and give in to her attraction to him, but I did want them to be together at the end.

That said, I didn't care about these two as much as I would have liked to. Their relationship is exciting at the beginning, but then there are long stretches where the focus shifts to the action and all the running around trying to clear Alex's name. They also get stuck in a small town and get involved in the life of the locals, which again, was nice enough, but it all stole momentum from the romance.

MY GRADE: B-. A qualified recommendation sounds about right.


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